Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yes, Benjamin. A Google Robot Really Does Exist

In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that children often are frustrated with their search results on the Internet. The article, Helping Children Find What They Need on the Internet, cited a recent study sponsored by Google, University of Maryland and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. It tells us of 11-year-old Benjamin and his struggles in the use of the Internet to answer the question, "Which day would the vice president’s birthday fall on the next year?" Benjamin later realizes that finding information on the Internet is a multi-step process. But at the time he was fully expecting Google to give him the information immediately.
"...Google has long known that it can be difficult for users to formulate the right keywords to call up their desired results. But that task can be even more challenging for children, given that they do not always have the right context for thinking about a new subject".
As librarians, we are all-too aware of this fact. How many times do we see our students frustrated with their searches simply because they don't know where to begin with search terms, or because they expect the information to appear immediately with very little higher-order thinking on their end. Google's answer to this dilemma is to continue to make the search process more transparent for children and adults alike. Apps such as the Wonder Wheel, make the search more graphical and help the user to narrow-down the results. Google, like other search engines, is also making it easier for searchers to use questions and statements to find answers to questions. Simply enter a sentence with an * where the sought information is, and Google will find your answer.
It seems to me that Google is aiming to do exactly what librarians have been doing all along: helping patrons in their search for answers and information. Of course, we librarians add a very important component: rather than to serve the information on a silver platter for our students, we rather guide them so that they can become better gatherers...better evaluators...and better synthesizers of information. After all, could there by a more important life-long skill than to know how to find valuable information?

That student, Benjamin (who has now learned a thing or two about Internet searching), has an idea about how Google could help students with their searches:
“I think there should be a program where Google asks kids questions about what they’re searching for,” he said, “like a Google robot.”
Hmm...that Google Robot sounds an awful like a librarian to me. And, guess what, Benjamin. One of those librarians is available 24/7 just like Google.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Google Custom Search + Pathfinders = Great Resource

Pathfinders are great resource tools which librarians, such as myself, create for student research projects. They are customized lists of specific sources on a particular unit or subject, consisting of both print and online media. Google Custom Search allows users to pick & choose which websites will be utilized when performing a search. Then, with just one search performance, all sites can be searched at one time. Put the two together, and librarians can provide students with an invaluable, customized research tool.

Recently, I created a Google Customized Search for Literary Criticism and embedded it on my Literary Criticism pathfinder. Now, students who are looking for critical reviews, not only have a list of resources to explore, but they can quickly search through the best, most relevant websites with one, easy search.





Friday, December 18, 2009

Google Books

You probably are familiar with Google Books, but perhaps don't know about all of the terrific tools which Google continues to add.

Did you know:
  • When you perform a general Google search, you can click on "Show options" and you will be given an option to see all the Google Books search results.
  • Many Google Books are available in FULL PREVIEW which means you can look through the entire book, page by page, or by selecting pages from the Table of Contents.
  • You can search for words or terms throughout a Google Book and it will take you to the page with that keyword.
  • In the Preview section, you can embed the book into your website.

  • You or your students can submit a book review into Google Books for others to see.
  • In the Overview section, Google Books provides a Wordle which shows the most commonly used words and phrases in the book.


    • If any geographical places are mentioned in a book, pinpoints are shown on a Google map with reference to where in the book the place is mentioned.


    • You can see where there are references to the book from both Google Books and from Google Scholar.
    • Books which are available to preview can be added to your own library - your library can be shared, searched or followed with an RSS feed.
    • Hyperlinked subjects of books allow you to find similar books to the one you are viewing.
    For complete information on Google Book searches, check out Lucy Gray's presentation which she shared at the Google Teacher Academy in Washington D.C.

    Without a doubt, Google Books is something which will continue to be developed, as well as debated. Just today, MSNBC reported that Google was being sued in Paris for copyright violation. Here in the United States, a fairness hearing is scheduled for February 18 for an amended settlement to a lawsuit from the Author's Guild and publishers.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    What Should I Read Next?

    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.





    Google has been improving their search options almost daily and the improvements are exciting! I experienced Google's new Flight Tracker for myself when I needed to check on my husband's flight yesterday. All I needed to do is enter the airline abbreviation and the flight number, and there were all the details I needed: I didn't even need to hit return!









    Need to check the weather for a certain city? Simple enter weather: "name of city". Without even hitting return, you will have a list of weather options with the weather outlook at the bottom of the search options.
















    Have a question? Type in the beginning of a statement followed by an asterisk.









    Want the latest score of your hometown team? Type in the team name for the latest game info and a link for more details.









    And the list of info goes on: stocks, conversions, zip codes, and more. Visit Explore Google Search for a complete list of searching options.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Google Teacher Academy -Washington DC






    I've just returned from the Google Teacher Academy where I learned an amazing amount of information. I was honored to be among 50 accepted educators out of 340 applicants from all across the country. Sharing what I learned in one blog post would be impossible: I learned so much that my head is still spinning with ideas and action plans. To be sure, I will be blogging more on each individual application.

    Going into the academy, I was most expecting to learn about all the cool, new apps such as Google Wave. What surprised me is the extent of information which I learned about apps which I knew well (or, should I say I thought I knew well)!

    Such as:

    • Google spreadsheets has Magic Fill - automatically completes a list by filling in related items you enter. "Strawberries", "bananas", "peaches"... think quick! 20 more fruits!"
    • With the feature "View Together", Google Presentation allows a back channel of information during the slideshow presentation.
    • Using Google Books, you can embed certain ebooks onto your website.
    • Google Docs not only displays word count, but reading level
    One of the highlights of my Google experience was listening to Jerome Burg talk about his Google Lit Trips. Once again, I thought this was a tool which I knew well and needed no further instruction. However, hearing Jerome's passion and his philosophy on motivating students was so inspirational! And when I told him about my idea of using Google Lit Trips for our Read the World even next year on Latin America, he said he would love to be involved! How awesome.

    So -as I mentioned, more blogging to come on the wonderful world of Google!



    Monday, November 30, 2009

    Book Review: Have a Little Faith

    When Mitch Albom’s Rabbi asks him to write his eulogy, he feels both humbled and uneasy about honoring a “man of God” who has touched and inspired so many people. Although Albom has known “the Reb” since he was a child, he wants to be sure he captures the true character of the Rabbi, Albert Lewis. Thus begins the treasured relationship which Albom has with Rabbi Lewis for eight years. As he interviews and spends time with him, Albom realizes that the Rabbi is an incredibly giving and forgiving person who has a tremendous amount of love for people and life. Paralleling his visits with Rabbi Lewis, Albom befriends Henry Convington, a Detroit pastor who is a former drug addict and criminal. As Albom witnesses Convington’s unselfishness and devotion to helping the homeless and needy, Albom clearly sees that faith can be found in all religions. This is a wonderfully inspiring true story which stresses the importance of community and of the power of tolerance.

    Mitch Albom speaks with Katie Couric about "Have a Little Faith":

    Watch CBS News Videos Online

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    New MacBooks Have Arrived!

    Great news! On Friday we had 30 new MacBooks delivered to our library! Are you a "PC" kind of person? No worries: these are dual-boot which means that you can boot-up in either the Windows or Mac platform with the click of your touchpad.
    Since there has been some confusion about how to save to the network on a Mac, I've provided a mini-tutorial below which guides you through the steps. You can also find this tutorial on our library website.Saving On Macs
    View more presentations from mschwander.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Review: Picking Cotton

    Picking Cotton is the true story of Ronald Cotton, a black man accused of raping a white, college-aged woman in the 1980’s. The victim, Jennifer Thompson, picks Cotton out of a line-up and has no question in her mind that this was the man who broke into her apartment and raped her as she lay in bed. Eleven years after Cotton is sentenced to life in prison, new DNA evidence proves that, without a doubt, Cotton could not have been the man who committed the crime.

    The book is jointly written by Cotton and Thompson, with the help of writer, Erin Torneo. In alternating chapters, we hear about both Thompson’s mental anguish and Cotton’s denial to freedom. The reader can easily sympathize with both “victims” and can’t help but feel that the system has failed them both. The positive side of the story is that after Cotton is released from prison, Thompson gets in touch with Cotton, and they both form an alliance towards changing the way in which suspects are identified. In fact, you may have seen the two of them on TV as they spread their message across the nation. (See the 60 minutes clip below).
    The website for Picking Cotton has a lot of interesting information as well, including the actual case files, a book trailer, and an eye-witness test to see how well you do at identifying suspects (I failed miserably!) Ronald Cotton and Jennifer Thompson have a compelling story which everyone must hear!


    Watch CBS News Videos Online

    Monday, November 2, 2009

    Follow Authors on Twitter

    I've been using Twitter for a few years now to extend my PLN and to stay updated on news and events related to education and technology. In many ways, it has replaced my RSS subscriptions since my "peeps" tweet about the latest article, new novel release or Web 2.0 tool that I may want to know about. At the beginning of the school year, I created a Twitter account for my library, LibraryLines, so that I could broadcast any library news to all of my followers. True, I don't have many followers to LibraryLines yet, but I sincerely believe that Twitter's popularity will grow and that eventually students and parents will realize its many benefits. Twitter is not all about "what are you doing?" as it has advertised in the past, but more about "what can you share?"

    And now, with newly released Twitter lists, Twitter has even more to share! Over the weekend I busily created lists of librarians and lists of authors whom I follow. Now I can quickly sort my tweets by category and , even better, share my lists with others.
    So here, my friends, is my small but growing list of authors on Twitter. Find out where writers are touring, what books they are working on, what they are blogging, or simply what their passions are. It's truly a wonderful look into to the lives of authors.

    By the way, the highlight of my weekend was when I saw that Ishmael Beah reciprocated my follow by also following me. Pretty cool stuff!

    Wednesday, October 28, 2009

    An Inspiring Day with Allan Stratton



    Yesterday was the final day in our Read the World series and it certainly was a perfect way to end the community reading program. Allan Stratton, author of Chanda's Secrets, was here at our high school all day and made a powerful impression on our students. In the morning, Allan met with a Creative Writing class and a Dramatic Writing class. After reading an excerpt from Chanda's Secrets, he answered questions from students which varied from handling writer's block, his inspiration for the characters in Chanda's Secrets and Chanda's Wars, and the time and perseverance necessary in writing a novel.

    In the afternoon, Allan presented to all of our 9th grade students who are reading the novel with their English classes. I knew that his novel had made a powerful impression on the kids when I saw hands shooting up all over the auditorium - each student hoping that Allan would have time to address their question. Afterwards, many students approached him to ask him a question, sign a book, or simply to shake his hand and thank him for coming.

    Later that night, he presented to a small audience which consisted of a few students, parents and community members who had read Chanda's Secrets as part of the Read the World program. Although the attendance was light, those there were very engaged and most lingered afterwards to chat with Allan and have him sign their books.

    This is the first year of our community reading initiative which partners with the Free Library of New Hope and Solebury and the New Hope-Solebury Education Fund. The mission of the program is “one community, exploring cultural diversity, one book at a time.” This year we focused on the Sub-Saharan African region and four books were selected as recommended reads: Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton, What is the What by Dave Eggers, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah and Brothers in Hope by Mary Williams.

    In effort to educate our students and the community, each week in October we offered an event which focused on a cultural aspect of Sub-Sarahan Africa: an evening of Sudanese food, an African art sampler from the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Anthropology and Archeology, a percussion and a cappella workshop by Voices of Africa, a multi-media tour of Africa by National Geographic photographer, Bob Krist and, lastly, Allan Stratton's visit.
    I am so very grateful to our New-Hope Solebury Education Fund committee for making Allan Stratton's visit possible and for supporting the Read the World program. I've heard so many positive remarks from students, teachers, parents, administrators and community members about the impact that Chanda's Secrets has had upon them, and about how the program, in general, has helped them to better understand this African region. One of the best comments came from a parent who told me that after her son saw Bob Krist's photographs of gorillas in Congo and heard about their threatened extinction, he went home and surfed the Internet to learn more about the illegal poaching of them. He also was so inspired by Chanda's Secrets that he went out on his own to purchase the sequel, Chanda's Wars. Another touching moment was to see a student walk up to Allan Stratton, shake his hand, and thank him for coming to our school. This same student came to me in the library this morning and thanked me for making Allan Stratton's visit possible. He, also, is one who went out to purchase his own copy of Chanda's Wars.

    Another positive outcome of this whole project is a connection to a school in Namibia. Allan had put me in touch with a teacher there whose students were reading Chanda's Secrets, and who have experienced many of the issues that faced Chanda in the novel. This teacher is sending us videos of her students talking about the novel and describing their day-to-day life in their village. In turn, our students are donating their favorite books with a written inscription so that the Namibia school has some books in their fairly sparse library.

    Hopefully we will get funding for Read the World next year, so that we can continue to focus on various cultural regions and offer some great presentations!

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Bob Krist Presents Photos of Africa


    On October 20, professional photographer, Bob Krist, took the New Hope-Solebury community on a multi-media tour of Africa. Krist has taken photos for many travel publications, including National Geographic Traveler and Smithsonian. The presentation, held at the New Hope-Solebury Upper Elementary School, was hosted by Read the World. Read the World is a community reading initiative promoted by New Hope-Solebury High School, the Free Library of New Hope and Solebury and the New Hope-Solebury Education Fund. The mission of the program is “one community, exploring cultural diversity, one book at a time” and this year’s focus is Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Krist presented photographs and videos from regions throughout Africa, and entertained the audience with interesting stories about each of the regions. He also spoke about Playpumps which provide clean drinking water to people living in Sub-Saran Africa. He and his wife, Peggy, have raised enough money to install a Playpump in Malawi through the Jonathan D. Krist Foundation. The foundation was established to honor the memory and charitable deeds of their son, Jonathan.

    This presentation was the fourth in a series of Read the World events. The final event, on October 27th, will feature the author of Chanda’s Secrets, Allan Stratton. More information about Read the World can be found at http://www.nhs-read-the-world.com/.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Voices of Africa

    On Tuesday evening, Read the World hosted Voices of Africa - an internationally acclaimed all-women's a cappella and percussion ensemble.  It was a terrifically fun night for students of all ages as well as many parents and community members.  Nana, the leader of the group, involved everyone in the audience in the performance.  Every single participant was either singing, drumming and ringing bells to make beautiful, African music.




    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Schmoop! (There it is)

    Shmoop has now introduced a new subject - Music! Shmoop has already been a great resource for Literature and History. Written by university professors and by teachers, Shmoop aims to make "writing and learning more fun and relevant for students in this digital age".

    Though the music database is just beginning to evolve and therefore has limited songs, the information is extensive, entertaining and enlightening. For each lyrical line, the Shmoop editors give a "quick thought" and "deep thought". In fact, you can listen to the song as the editorial notes pop-up at the appropriate place in the song.

    Incidentally, I knew that Paper Planes by MIA was a violent song, but Shmoop provided some real eye-opening information about the meaning and the artist's biography.

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    African Art Sampler


    On October 6, the New Hope-Solebury community program, Read the World, hosted An African Sampler at the Free Public Library of New Hope and Solebury . Dr. Jill Furst of the University of Pennsylvania Museum and the Commonwealth Outreach lecture program gave a fascinating introduction to the richness of African visual arts. She spoke at length about the culture of Nigerians and answered various questions from the audience.

    Next on tap for our Read the World program: Voices of Africa on Oct. 13, 7pm in the HS Gym. Join us for a wonderful evening with this internationally acclaimed all-women's a cappella & percussion ensemble.

    Friday, October 2, 2009

    "Read the World" Enjoys an Evening of Sudanese Food


    On October 1, the New Hope-Solebury community program, Read the World, hosted an evening of Sudanese food in the New Hope-Solebury High School Library. High school instructional assistant and Sudanese native, Sawsan Ahmed, presented Mulah Bamia, a popular Sudanese dish of okra and meat. People were invited to sample this and other dishes, and spoke to Ms. Ahmed about her background and culture.

    Other upcoming events are
    · Voices of Africa: An internationally acclaimed all-women's a cappella and percussion ensemble on Tuesday, October 13, 7:00pm in the High School Auditorium
    · Bob Krist of National Geographic takes us on tour of Africa through his wonderful photographs on Tuesday, October 20, 7:00pm in the High School Auditorium
    · Allan Stratton, author of Chanda’s Secrets, discusses his experiences in Africa on Tuesday, October 27, 7:00pm in the High School Auditorium

    Read the World is a community reading initiative promoted by New Hope-Solebury High School, the Free Library of New Hope and Solebury and the New Hope-Solebury Education Fund. The mission of the program is “one community, exploring cultural diversity, one book at a time.” This year the focused region is Sub-Saharan Africa and four books have been selected as recommended reads: Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton, What is the What by Dave Eggers, A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah and Brothers in Hope by Mary Williams. More details can be found at www.nhs-read-the-world.com.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Play Monopoly With Real World Streets - Monopoly City Streets, Google Maps Style


    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Read the World Blog

    We now have a Read the World blog for folks to respond to the selected books! Some suggested questions are listed for each book, but feel free to make any comments you wish.

    We have a FABULOUS line-up of Read the World events in October. Our first presentation will be An Evening of Sudanese Food on October 1 at 7:00pm in the High School Library. Our teacher assistant, Sawsan Ahmed, will be presenting a traditional Sudanese dish and discuss the Sudanese culture.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Read the World

    Thanks to funding from the NHS Education Fund, author Allan Stratton will be visiting our high school and community to discuss his book, Chanda’s Secrets, on October 27. The book, which is set in Sub-Saharan Africa, will be read this fall in ninth-grade English classes and the region will be studied in World Cultures classes. As a derivative of this event, the high school library has partnered with the Free Library of New Hope and Solebury and the NHS Education Fund to create a community reading program called Read the World. Read the World provides a list of book suggestions as well as various community presentations offered in October which explore African cultures.

    For a list of books, events and further resources, please visit nhsreadtheworld.wikispaces.com

    Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    More Economic Woes @ Your Library

    I'm sorry to say that our high school library is certainly not immune to the financial situation in our country. Due to cutbacks in state and district spending, within just one week I've heard of three losses to our library services:
    1. NetTrekker: This educational search engine was provided through state funding and is no longer available as of today, July 1. This was not only a valuable tool to our students, but a wonderful professional development tool for myself and other teachers looking for quality, educational resources.
    2. POWER Library Databases: Also effective today, POWER Library has lost four, extremely valuable databases:
    • Consumer Health Complete (including Salud en Espanol and Lexi-PALS Drug Guide)
    • History Reference Center
    • Book Source: Non-fiction
    • Professional Development Collection
    • Pearl's Picks
    I've used Professional Development Collection many times to find some great resources for my principal, our teachers and for my own professional development. I often recommended History Reference Center and Book Source to students as an option for finding quality, print sources for their research. And Consumer Health Complete was an awesome resource for our health and science classes.

    3. Support Staff: At last week's school board meeting, members voted to cut all support staff's to 7 hours. This is most unfortunate news since it will mean that our library assistant, Mrs. McLaughlin will now be working until 4:00pm, forcing us to close the library a half hour earlier than our usual closing time of 4:30pm. Many students will be quite disappointed since our library was often used right up until Mrs. McLaughlin closed the doors at 4:30.

    My worry is that, with our state budget still under negotiation, more cuts may still be coming. It's vital for legislators and voters to know the impact that these cuts will have on our students. Our students are becoming very savvy researchers and are coming to realize the importance of using authentic, quality resources in contrast to something they may find by Googling it. Can we really afford to cut something so vital in our students' 21st century education?

    Heard enough to convince you that this is a real issue for our students? Then please contact your legislators TODAY and let them know that we need these valuable library resources. Our Bucks County Library system makes this very easy for their residents. They have set up a survey through Survey Monkey which allows you to voice your opinion. Within just 2 minutes, your voice can be heard. PLEASE DO IT NOW!

    The Bucks County Library website also has this interesting video clip of NBC's TODAY show on the value of public libraries. Although the focus is on public libraries, the same issues can be said for our high school library: most every morning before school has begun, as well as in the afternoon when school is over, the library is absolutely full of students using the services which they might not have available at home. As Matt Lauer so effectively concludes, Libraries are an important part of our lives!



    Friday, June 26, 2009

    The Silver Linings Playbook

    Last night I finished a book which many of our students enjoyed, The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. AP Literature teacher, Drew Giorgi, arranged for Quick's visit back in May. I was most impressed with what Quick had to say, and blogged about it soon afterwards.

    Straight out of a mental institution, 35 year-old Pat Peoples has a lot of baggage to overcome. While dealing with the fact that he can't remember for how long and why he was hospitalized, he wants nothing more than to be reunited with his wife, Niki. He realizes that "apart time" is something which they had agreed upon, but is determined that someday their marriage will be back to normal, as will his mental stability. Now living with his parents, he has a supportive and loving mother who is trying her best to help Pat get better. But his father has no patience for Pat's insecurities and has volatile mood swings which coincide with the Philadelphia Eagles winning record. Readers will like Pat for his honesty, tenderness and positive attitude and will be routing for him to find that silver lining in his life.Philadelphia fans will recognize the passion for the Eagles and all there is to love about the Philadelphia area. E-A-G-L-E-S...EAGLES!

    Sunday, June 14, 2009

    New Moon Poster Released


    Fans of the Twilight series will be happy to see this newly released poster for the movie, New Moon. I know many students in our school are counting down the days until November 20.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009

    48 Hour Book Challenge Complete

    Although I barely got in 12 hours this weekend with the 48 Hour Book Challenge, it is a success in my mind since a) I did get a lot of good reading done and b) I saw a lot of great blogs and connected with some terrific people. I also rediscovered why I like audio books so much. Just today I cut the grass, got a lot of weeding done, did a load of wash or two AND got nearly 4 hours of a book "read".
    Though I'm only 1/4 of the way into Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, I already have some boys at school who I'll be recommending it to. The YA novel is about a boy who finds himself under the careful scrutiny of the government after a terrorist attack on San Francisco. Their suspicions stem from his extensive knowledge and use of computer hacking, but their actions are over-the-top and quite alarming. This book would be a great one to start a discussion about the Patriot act.


    Paper Towns Completed (Regrettably)

    Paper Towns is one of those books you just don't want to end. I've discovered that John Green knows exactly how to write about young adults in a fresh, honest and humorous way. (Shame on me for not yet reading Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines yet! No worries...I have this summer.)
    Quentin is the sensible, like-able, "good" guy with parents who are both therapists and, therefore, are constantly providing loving support in everything he does. In fact, they even like it when he curses in front of them since that only proves that he feels the utmost comfort with them. Margo is Quentin's next-door neighbor whom he was friends with when they were young. However, now in their senior year, Margo's among the popular crowd and Quentin (although he is not in Band) is happy with his group of Band friends whom are very knowingly not part of the popular crowd. When Margo decides that she needs more from her life than the imagined "paper girl" which she feels she has become, Quentin finds himself following her trail and discovers himself along the way. Green does wonderful things with metaphors which gives this coming-of-age story style and poignancy.
    Green's inclusion of the paper town of Agloe, NY is interesting. The term "paper town" refers to something cartographers started doing in the early 20th century to deter copyright infringement. They included the fictional town of Agloe so that they could track any other cartographer's attempt to copy their map: if another map included Agloe, they would know that it was copied from their own map. Interestingly, an Algoe General Store was even built to acknowledge this fictitious place, thus turning fiction into reality. Green's use of the paper town works well in his novel since Margo has grown up fantasizing that she was someone she wasn't among an imagined place with imagined friends.

    Sunday update thus far: 1.5 hours reading, 1 hour blogging and networking.
    I'm off to start The Silver Linings Playbook by Quick, but am thinking I may also start the audiobook of Little Brother by Doctorow so I can get chores done in-between hammock rests. :-)


    48 Hour Book Challenge - Sunday Update

    Progress Update:
    Hours reading = 9
    Hours networking = 2

    Well, I'm certainly not going to be a winner in this challenge, but I'm having fun and my PLN is growing in wonderful ways nonetheless. The plan today is to finish listening to Paper Towns and then crack open The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. Matt Quick came to visit our school this week and I was so impressed by his own story and very intrigued about his first novel.
    It's a beautiful day here in New Hope, PA and I plan to take full advantage of it. Reading in the hammock followed by a bike ride with my husband to the Stockton Day Fair. Somewhere in between I'll get the wash done and do some yard work!


    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Paper Towns Update



    Taking a break from listening to Paper Towns to go for a run. While I did debate listening to it while running, I really need my music to keep me motivated for runs. I have a bout 2 hours left of audio book and I'm anxious to see if Q and the gang eventually find Margo in the paper town in NY.

    48 HBC Progress Update

    Friday 5:00 - 10:00: Finished reading Hunger Games (with breaks in between)
    Saturday 7:00 -7:30: Blogged and caught-up on fellow 48HBC partcipants (and discovered many too add to my PLN!)
    Saturday 8:00-10:30: Listening to audio book of Paper Towns while grocery shopping, ironing, and doing all the stuff that needs to get done (is that cheating?)
    Saturday 10:30 - 10:50: Blogging and tweeting update

    Hours reading (or listening!) = approx. 6
    Hours blogging/tweeting = .75

    Not looking to win any prizes, just enjoying an excuse to read and to network with a lot of great fellow readers!



    Book 1 Done: The Hunger Games


    So, I began the 48 Hour Book Challenge last night at 5:00pm by continuing a book I had already started: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. With just a little cat-nap or two, I finished the book at 10:30. The Hunger Games is a dystopian novel which had me turning the pages from the very first chapter. Sixteen-year-old Katniss takes the spot of her little sister in an annual, national game which pits young people against each other for a fight for survival. Katniss is tough and her hunting skills help her immensely throughout the Game, but she quickly learns that the Game also requires learning who to trust and how to "play" among human relationships. The book guarantees a sequel and I'll be the first in line!

    After doing some catching up with what my fellow challengers are reading, I'm on to the next book: Paper Towns by John Green.

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    The 48 Hour Book Challenge Begins



    Okay, so I just learned about the 48-Hour Book Challenge thanks to a tweet from @SLJournal and how can I resist? Gotta love a challenge when books are involved. So - count me in! Game on!

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Matt Quick has a Strong Message

    A couple of weeks ago, NHS was fortunate to have author, Matthew Quick, visit Drew Giorgi's AP Literature class. Giorgi had assigned the students to reading The Silver Linings Playbook and thus arranged for Quick's visit.
    At the time, I had not started the book but was intrigued by the story-line and interested to hear more about it. The novel revolves around a young man who is released from a neural health facility and his coming to terms with his life as he regains his memory while living with his parents in New Jersey. My students tell me they really enjoyed the book for its wittiness, truthfulness and for the fact that Pat Peoples, the main character, is a very like-able guy.
    What I found from the author is that he, himself, is indeed a very like-able guy. He's down-to-earth, funny, approachable, and has a life history that is interesting and endearing.
    Growing up, Matt Quick was one of those kids who just didn't fit into school. He didn't like classes and it basically reflected in his grades. He had a strong passion for writing, but that passion was squashed by his father who felt that writing would not bring him success. So, Matt ended up going to college and eventually became an English teacher.
    Fast forward about seven or eight years later when Matt suddenly takes inventory of his life and wonders how he ended up in the state he was - working in a profession which brought him little reward and in a near state of depression. Thanks to a wonderfully supportive wife who recognized Matt's unhappiness, he ended up quiting his job, moving in with his in-laws, and writing with passion in his in-law's basement. A couple of years later, and many rejections later, The Silver Linings Playbook was published in 2008 and he has a young adult novel, Sorta Like a Rock Star, forthcoming in 2010.
    The lesson of his own story hit a chord in mine. As Matt spoke about his father's disapproval, I thought of my own son and his love of the arts and his struggle with academics. It is so, so important that I'm supportive of his creative passion. I guess, in fact, I always knew that. But hearing Matt talk about his own struggles and then his eventual success as a writer, the message hit home. Follow your heart and happiness will follow. What defines success more than that?


    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Hot off the Press: PSLA Top Forty Reviews

    The Top Forty Pennsylvania School Library Association 2009 book reviews are now online! Want to know what books should be on your "TO READ" list this summer? This is a great place to start. In fact, the two books which I am presently reading: Paper Towns by John Green and Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins caught my attention because of my colleagues intriguing reviews.


    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    My Sister's Keeper: The Movie

    On June 26th, the movie version of My Sister's Keeper will be released in movies throughout the US. With good reason, this novel by award-winning author Jodi Picoult has been one of the most popular in our school library. Though it's been a few years since I read the book, I have to admit that the movie trailer doesn't quite match what I remember. And Picoult admits that the ending is not the same as in her novel, but she also adds "you're still going to like it" and that kleenex is necessary. I suppose we'll have to wait until June 26th to decide for ourselves.


    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    Reading Olympics 2010 List is Released

    Okay, Reading Olympics members...it's countdown to Reading Olympics 2010!
    And check-out this reading list! There are some great new titles including two favs of the year: Hunger Games and The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.
    Time to get reading, RO members!




    Friday, May 8, 2009

    How To Get Through A Semester With Your iPhone : iSmashPhone



    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Validate Your Resources!

    Attention Wikipedia users: Dilbert reminds us that it is crucial to validate your resources!


    Dilbert.com

    Sunday, May 3, 2009

    Jog The Web for Copyright Friendly Images


    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    Blog posts 05/03/2009


    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    Duck Duck Go

    • A new search engine with less garbage and better results. With less clicking forward and back between results, it is for anyone who wants to get information faster. You can click on an icon to easily search through sites such as Twitter and New York Times.

      tags: searchengine, search


    Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

    PSLA Top Forty Cooks-up Some Good Reviews















    I was so glad to be a part of another fun-filled night at this year's PSLA Top Forty presentation. Lead by our Top Chef, Joyce Valenza, we "stirred-up" the audience with some "tasty morsels" and "gourmet selections" of this year's best YA books. Look for our list , soon to be posted on the Top Forty website.
    My own "favorite dishes" were Over and Under by Todd Tucker (simply superb!), The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti, Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris and Graceling by Kristn Cashore.

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    The Inspiration of The Soloist

    I just finished reading the The Soloist - the fascinating true story of a mentally ill, homeless man whose talent on the strings inspires an LA journalist, and now readers like me. In anticipation of our school book club and a trip to see the movie (which is to be released on April 24), I've been finding some interesting resources on the web which delve into this spirited and compelling story.

    Interview with Journalist and author, Steve Lopez on NPR
    The Soloist Official Movie Site
    Penguin Publishers Reading Guide
    Philadelphia One Book - The Soloist



    Thursday, April 2, 2009

    Economic Woes @ Your Library

    It seems that in these difficult economics times, free entertainment isn't the only reason people are frequenting their public library. Add job hunting and stress-release to the list of items to tackle when visiting the library, according to an article in today's New York Times.
    And speaking of the economy (who isn't?), another New York Times link shows that pictures say a thousand words in describing how this recession has effected our nation's culture.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Xtranormal Fun



    As the site claims, "if you can type you can make movies". Xtranormal is easy and fun!

    Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    Cultures Connecting Through One Book

    Often people connect in the most unexpected and impromptu times and it's truly a beautiful thing. Even better is when two cultures find a connection when they're not even trying. But best of all (at least in the eyes of this librarian), is when the cultural connection is made possible through a book.
    Back in the summer, I contacted author Allan Stratton about the possibility of visiting our school to discuss his book, Chanda's Secrets. I was struck by the story of this young girl's struggle to survive amongst the AIDS epidemic in her African village, and believed it could make a great impact on our students studying World Cultures. As I spoke to Allan on the phone to propose his visit, it became immediately apparent that he had many stories to tell which need to be heard. He is not only a prolific storyteller, but someone who cares about the real people of whom he writes. He shared with me his time spent in Africa and how touched he was with their human spirit.
    Recently, Allan shared with me an email describing the impact that Chanda's Secrets had on one particular boy in Namibia. A young woman, Aly Martin, in the Peace Corps and teaching in Namibia gave the book to a troubled, orphaned boy and it made a very obvious impact on his life. The book spoke of the pain which this boy knew only too well. With the help of Allan and this woman's mother, Tracie, Aly and I are now corresponding about a collaborative effort between our students so that they may appreciate each other's culture. In the fall, as our students begin to read Chanda's Secrets, our school will be conducting a fundraiser for the many obvious needs of these Namibia students.
    Indeed, books can make the greatest of impacts in people's lives. Thank you, Allan Stratton, for writing an important story. Thank you, Aly Martin, for making a difference in the real children about which Allan wrote. And thank you, Tracie Martin, for making sure the everyone hears these important stories - both fictional and real.



    Saturday, March 21, 2009

    New Spring Books!


    What's better than soaking in the spring sun with a good, new book? Come visit the library to see what new-releases may entice you. On March 25 before school, we will have them all on display along with some refreshments. Hope to see you there!
    Click here for a sample of some good ones to whet your appetite.

    Thursday, March 5, 2009

    Got iPhone? Get Apps!

    For those of you with an iPhone or an iTouch, check out this link of many great educational apps you can download - many for free! This was tweeted to me from Mac Apple educator, Dave Marra


    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Some Exciting Changes for Newsbank

    I was very pleased to get a phone call from Newsbank yesterday telling me of new updates for our Newsbank subscription. They have added many new features that will make research projects much easier! For social studies, there are now many more categories available such as easy access to International News (searchable through a world map), a World Economics category, Conflict and Terrorism Around the World, America’s Historical Newspapers (from 1690!). And for science and health they now have Science Source Collection, World Health section, as well as Science and Health in the News.

    But that's not all! We also now have access to Newsbank articles through EBSCO (go to POWER Library from school). When you do a search in EBSCO, you will now see a link to Newsbank in the lower left-hand side.

    Give it a try. It's pretty impressive!

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    Telling a Story at PETE & C


    My seven days at PETE & C allowed me to see a lot of fabulous tools which our students can be utilizing in the classroom. Brilliant podcasts; terrific music compositions; professional-looking movies, cool virtual spaces for learning… Most of the technology, perhaps all, I had already used or had explored at some point prior to this conference. But then again, learning how to use a new piece of technology is not necessarily what this conference is all about.

    The biggest thing I took away was a continuing theme I heard throughout my days there. I heard it from all three of the keynote speakers as well as from many of the session presenters: the importance of giving students the ability, tools and confidence to tell a story.

    As keynote speaker, Jason Ohler pointed out, stories help us to organize information, remember a place and express the emotion of an event. Everyone has a story; he or she may just need help in finding how to tell it. Keynote speaker, Daniel Pink, described design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning as the six aptitudes of the right-side of the brain which are so crucial to our students’ success. Similarly, Rafe Esquith brilliantly and emotionally demonstrated the importance of creativity, innovation and empathy in a child’s learning experience. The videos he shared of his students' learning celebrations clearly verified that these components matter - really matter - in a child’s learning experience.

    Ken Rodoff’s session on Improving Student Presentations reminded us that students need some guidance in telling a story: they need to find the story's “hook” and they need to realize that they are entertaining an audience, not simply completing a class assignment. Mercyhurst College's session on Imagining in Second Life had a very creative way to tell a story – using Second Life islands as a stage for Abraham Lincoln revisions or a gallery for art work.

    Students deserve to have all the tools and opportunities they need to tell their story. Technology holds a mother-load of them. As Ohler points out, a big amplifier won’t make a bad guitar sound good – the story has to be good in order to sound good. But whether it’s a movie, a song, a play or a podcast – it’s another chance that a good story will be heard and shared.

    Monday, February 9, 2009

    New Books - No Cost

    CBS recently reported that libraries are booming because of the free services offered in this struggling economy. People visit the library for the free Internet services and, of course, to borrow a good read at no cost. So, of course it seems ironic (and unfair!) that libraries are being targeted in cities and communities looking to cut spending.
    That being said - please do take advantage of our wonderful high school collection. In fact, we just received a new shipment of books in to help you get through the winter blues. A sequel to Wicked, a new Wally Lamb book, and a variety of vampire reads are just a sampling of the gems. For the full list, click here. Or, better yet....stop by the library and see them on display!

    Sunday, February 1, 2009

    "Three Cups of Tea" and the Value of Education

    Today I finished reading “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and find myself amazingly inspired. It is a book which every American should read, most especially teachers. Mortenson, along with his comrades in Pakistan and Afghanistan appreciate the value of an education and the power it holds for change.
    Recently, Gen. Petraeus reportedly sent Mortenson an email with three key-points which he gleaned from the book. The keypoints for me come from three Himalayan’s which were noted in the book:
    • A quote from the Bhutan king – “true measure of a nation’s success is not gross national product but ‘gross national happiness’” pg. 120
    • Speaking of his village, Haji Ali, the illiterate, elder leader of Korphe claimed “I’ll pay any price so they have the education they deserve”. Mortenson reflected , “Here was this illiterate man who’d hardly ever left his little village in the Karakoram. Yet he was the wisest man I’ve ever met.” Pg. 153
    • Pakistani general, Bashir Baz – “The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business.” Pg. 310

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Whitehouse.gov Gets a Face Lift

    America not only got a new president yesterday, but a new Whitehouse website complete with slideshows, a blog and facts about American presidencies. The blog explains the three main priorities of the website as Communication, Transparency and Participation. This is an open invitation for citizens to voice their opinion and ideas to President Obama and his cabinet.
    Be sure to check-out Whitehouse 101 which includes some fun trivia about our presidents.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Students Voice Their Opinion about the Inauguration

    Visit VoiceThread and search for "inauguration09". You will find some VoiceThreads which have been created by students allowing them to share their discussions about Obama's inauguration. For those of you who are new to VoiceThread, this is an online, digital story-teller with the ability of adding voice, text and "doodles". The best feature of VoiceThread is it's ability to share and collaborate with users around the world. I can think of no better use of VoiceThread than this opportunity for students to share their thoughts with the world!

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Inauguration Word Clouds

    The New York Times has a very clever interactive time line of all American presidents' inauguration speeches. The most-used words appear as the largest. The largest of all are highlighted. Click on a word to see it in context in the president's speech. It's quite interesting to see what words stood out for each president.
    Any predictions for Obama's big words? I'm putting my money on HOPE, CHANGE, WE and YOU.

    Saturday, January 17, 2009

    Classrooms for the Future comes to New Hope


    It's been quite awhile since I've posted in my blog...but for good reason! As the CFF coach for our high school, my time is now split between library media specialist and the CFF position. As our school gets ready to roll out 2 MacBook labs, I've been busy gathering resources, attending professional development workshops and preparing teachers for what is to come. On January 15, we had our first "Out-of-the Box" Apple training with Paul Tarantiles. Paul truly got us excited about how we can use this technology! Social networking, multimedia creations, immediate access to educational tools - soon our kids will be using all these great things in their classrooms.
    Of course, many of these tools may be new to us, but are certainly not new to our students. A recent MacArthur study found that "learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to re-imagine education in the 21st century". It found that although students are very adept at socializing and navigating online and with digital tools, they have not successfully used all those tools in their learning. That's where we educators come in. We can learn from them so that they can better learn from us.